“I am absolutely devastated about Norm Macdonald,” he wrote on Twitter. “Norm had the most unique comedic voice I have ever encountered and he was so relentlessly and uncompromisingly funny. I will never laugh that hard again. I’m so sad for all of us today.”
Longtime Conan writer Robert Smigel, who voices Triumph The Insult Comic Dog, also issued a statement about Macdonald. “In an era where every comedian with a political bent is hailed as brave Norm MacDonald was the real deal,” he wrote. “Always stayed ahead of the audience, never took a laugh that wasn’t completely on his terms. His cynicism was just a byproduct of his idealism – he cherished great comedy.”
Macdonald was a regular guest on O’Brien’s various talk shows over the past three decades, with the duo displaying some of the medium’s most incredible comedic chemistry. Maconald went on the show when he had a new project to promote, but he also stopped by merely to tell hilariously meandering stories (including an infamous one about a moth) or to bring Conan a gift basket after the news hit that NBC was firing him as the host of The Tonight Show after just seven months on the air.
“This is an older basket,” he told him. “I procrastinate, you know. This is a basket I got you back in June. I keep forgetting it…There’s a card. ‘Congratulations Conan on finally securing your place as permanent host of The Tonight Show. That’s something they can never take away from you. It is perhaps the shrewdest programming decision ever made by the NBC brain trust. Sure, the pressure is on. But if I know you, Conan O’Brien, miserable failure is not an option. You are the new king of late night. Long live the king!”
Perhaps his most infamous Conan appearance took place on May 15th, 1997 when he happened to be a guest while Melrose Place actress Courtney Thorne-Smith was discussing her upcoming movie Chairman of the Board, which starred prop comedian Carrot Top. “She left Melrose Place to make a movie with Carrot Top?” Macdonald asked. “I know what it’s going to be called. If it’s got Carrot Top in it, you know what a good name is for it? Box Office Poison.” (The film went on to gross $181,000 on a $10 million budget.)